Biden, Merkel meet in Berlin

Feb. 1, 2013 at 1:12 PM
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BERLIN, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who arrived in Berlin Friday for a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the pair "have a great deal to talk about."

"Germany is an absolutely essential, critical partner, and the Transatlantic Alliance continues to be the basis upon which our entire relationship with the world ...," Biden said in a joint appearance with the chancellor prior to their meeting. "Without a strong Europe, close ties to Europe, it is not conceivable how American interests can be -- can be met around the world.

"We have a great deal to talk about. I know we have a keen mutual interest. But also I'm anxious to tell you how we're going to -- why I think we're in the very good shape in terms of our so-called fiscal crisis, as it's always characterized. I think it's less of a crisis than people think.

The civil war in Syria is expected to be a primary focus of their discussions, but the global economy, Afghanistan and Iran's nuclear program also are expected to be on tap, Voice of America reported.

VOA reported Friday a German newspaper said Biden has reiterated the United States' position that Iran is running out of time to reach a diplomatic solution to international concerns about its nuclear program. Biden said while time remains to diplomatic and economic sanctions to produce results, the opportunity is not without end.

Iran is under diplomatic and economic pressure to abandon what the United States and its allies contend are the Islamic republic's efforts to gain a nuclear weapon capability.

Biden is to deliver a speech at the 49th Munich Security Conference Saturday. U.S. officials say he will hold a series of bilateral sideline talks, including with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, VOA said. The vice president is expected to seek clarification on Russia's position on Syria, one of its allies.

Biden is also scheduled to talk with U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and Syrian Opposition Council President Moaz al-Khatib.

From Germany, Biden is to head to France next week to meet with President Francois Hollande and then to London, where he will meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

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